PAUSE meets the driving force behind Critics clothing, founded by Samanah Duran.
Let’s take it right to the beginning, what were you doing before you started Critics Clothing?
Before Critics Clothing I was modelling on and off, I was more interested in the TV presenting side to be honest, I’ve always had that creative side of me since a young age. I always thought that with my outgoing and funny personality, TV would be my path to take. So when I first moved to London in 2010, my ambition was to succeed in TV not actually in fashion.
When did you start this idea and what inspired you to be your own boss?
For me, I believe I was born a business woman. I was more interested in working for my self. I didn’t ever want to be just a cog in some one else’s machine. Although I’m happy to help other peoples dream work and come true and believe me I’ve worked in some jobs where I’ve put all my energy into making it work for them. I just feel, that I cannot just live life and not push my own boundaries. I remember when I moved to Kent at 15, my dad used to own a bar, and I was always about making the money to be able to invest in other things.
I set up this small car cleaning business just round the back of the property where people used to park their cars. So I thought you know what, every Saturday and Sunday I’ll charge £9 just to valet a car while the punters have their beer and watch football or play darts. I had bookings coming out of my ears, for a 15 year old, I’d say between £150-£200 a weekend wasn’t bad at all. Any one who knows me would say I’m pretty restless, I cant sit still, I constantly have to know what is my next move, what is my next mission, and Critics clothing is by far my biggest mission. Partly I think because it hasn’t come easy. I know a lot of people and some of my friends have normal 9-5 jobs, and they are happy to do this. But this isn’t for me. I can’t deal with that.
Your brand clearly stands for its own identity, with slogans like ‘Be Your Own’, ‘Fuck Y’all Paparazzi’ what is the true message behind Critics clothing?
Critics is about being your own person, who are we, you or I to tell some one you can’t do this or that? who are we to define other people or pigeonhole people or put them in a box straight away. The message is, who ever is watching you, just continue to do you. just be yourself, be who you want to be. Never stop being you.
When a brand or business starts up, the logo is the main identity to stand out in the market, how did you come up with the logo for Critics?
The logo for the brand has changed many times. But the one that finally stuck was the one that had all the time invested into it. I have two logos for the brand, one written, quite casual and easy flowing. The other is a Mayan headdress which originates from Mayan art. The headdress, as we know, is given to the most respectable, loyal influential members of the African American tribe. So for me, the logo signifies that, and I want people to feel empowered when they wear something. The branding for the brand I think really vibes with that.
How do you get ideas when designing your next collections, where do you look or go to for inspiration?
Inspiration normally comes to me, any where around the hours of 6pm until 2am. Normally my late night calls and texts are to my designer. Where I’ll just be like “Yo I want this like that and that like this”, I think when ever you’re about to wind down and sleep, you have the best creative imagination. And you think, crap, I really should get of bed to note that down before I forget. I’m pretty much a night owl. Travelling is also good. I mean for me, or from what I have experienced so far, is that. travelling doesn’t mean going from London to Japan. I think for me, even a long distance train journey or a car drive can really have an input on designing. Things you notice or music you listen to or any moment your currently in can really reflect upon my designing. Weirdly enough, I only listen to rap music when I’m designing, I love jazz, salsa and old school classics but when the YG or french Montana comes out to play… every body know its about that time!
What does it feel like to have people wearing something that came from you?
It’s a strange sense, I mean when I have orders come through, it’s like wow really. You spent x amount on all these things? I never really get over that feeling, when I go out my with friends, even for dinner or down time, and strangers come up to me or my people for a general chat, and they say “oh, I love this sweater wheres it from?” I’m a bit shy when my boys are like “ well, It’s from Critics clothing and it’s her brand” pointing directly at me. I never really know where to look, I mean of course I’m proud of my brand, just I feel so exploited!
What celebrities have worn Critics Clothing and how did you get your stuff on them?
I think, it has always been a case of connections and when I moved to London I had nothing. I knew no one except one or two friends. To this day I still talk to them. I sound like a bit of a loner! But when I started the brand, I didn’t have money for PR, you can forget that! It was literally hit and miss. Now, one of my closest friends owns a long running brand, and he already had his name established. I literally hustled him every day for about a 6 months to give me his connections when I first started interviewing celebrities for the brand. So it started out like that, Nic Sagar, Vas Blackwood and David Harewood came on board, Steven webster gave me their support, It was really nice. Now, thankfully I have a wonderful PR team, I think i give them a headache now and again though!
How would you advise someone looking to start their own clothing business, give us 5 steps on how-to-get-started…
5 steps! well…
I think any one knows It’s easy these days to start a brand, any man and his dog can start a t-shirt business. But to have a long standing brand, I think. It’s a case of;
1. Build a logo which means something, branding is key. I’d also recommend making sure that your brand message reflects who you are and what your about. It’s so important to have a brand story.
2. Make sure you do your research and know and understand your market.
3. Invest in PR and use your connections to spread the word. You can have the most amazing product, but how will any one know it exists if there’s no marketing strategy behind it. You are your brand, so make sure your maximizing its potential to be seen, at every occasion until your bored of the garment!
4. Also, try reading or watching inspirational people who have succeeded and see how they have gone about their business, most of them do seminars or business workshops and they can give you tips and keys in how to push what you want further. You have to really strip down the DNA of your brand and know what it is you’re selling. Of course we know its a t-shirt or a pair of jeans. But what does it stand for? what’s your motto, your brand ethos. Does this jean give you an amazing ass if you don’t naturally have one. Does this Hoodie or leather jacket keep you warm when your cold or cold if your in hot weather conditions and your a mountain climber.
5. Don’t focus to much on competition, its healthy to see what every one else in the game is up to. Don’t judge, or hate or be bitter if things aren’t going as fast for you. You don’t know any one else’s story, it could of taken them 10 years to be where they are now. I think if your creating something different there is no competition. There is enough room for everyone, no matter how unsupportive or pessimistic judgmental people can seem. Don’t take everything so personally, if any one wants to criticize then take it constructively. If a door closes today, it could mean it wasn’t right for now and 10 may open tomorrow.
Just make sure your brand measures up and can deliver adequately and if its not. Then always see how you can improve, how to eliminate errors and don’t forget to take a risk every one and again!
What can we expect from Critics Clothing in 2015?
Critics is doing Pure London trade show in Feb, and the whole interviewing artists is still an existing platform of the brand. I’m keen to restart that, as last year got so chaotic, it was impossible to do it. Now that division will be taken care of by some one else in the team. But that’s the side I love, when I find new talent, I’m so intrigued by their rise and their come up and the struggle they had to go to even get played on radio or in some cases the actors that really worked hard to land roles.
There’s a new collection to release. That’s set to release in this next couple of months, and of course our 1st Anniversary for the brand. We never did a proper launch party so this one will be extra special for me every one who has supported the brand since day one because although I started in 2012 with the concept. It wasn’t until last February 2013 that Critics actually really was popularized.
Visit Critics Clothing website to shop the collection: www.criticsclothing.com